Pitt outlasts Wake Forest in two overtimes, 101-96
February 16, 2016 11:21 PM
Pitt guard Jamel Artis congratulates James Robinson near the end of their team's double-overtime win against Wake Forest Tuesday at Petersen Events Center.
The Pitt bench reacts to the second missed free throw by Ryan Luther against Wake Forest in the first overtime Tuesday at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon looks for a foul call as they take on Wake Forest in the second half.
Pitt forward Rafael Maia pulls down a rebound against Wake Forest' Mitchell Wilbekin in the first half.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pitt’s NCAA tournament hopes were in danger of getting dashed Tuesday night when the Panthers played host to one of the worst teams in the ACC.
But the Panthers found a way to survive in regulation, then again in overtime, and finally beat back pesky Wake Forest in double overtime to escape with a 101-96 win before a crowd of 8,825 at Petersen Events Center.
“A great win for us,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “We didn’t play great, we worked hard, we didn’t make shots, we battled and we competed. It was good to win a close game, we haven’t had a lot of close games. …
“It was good for us to make so many plays down the stretch and so many guys made big plays down the stretch, too. All of them did a great job. Sure, we have to get better on the defensive end, but I promise that will happen [today].”
The Panthers looked sloppy, sluggish and defensively challenged for most of the game and frankly might have gotten blown out had it not been for their ability to grab offensive rebounds and the Demon Deacons’ inability to shoot free throws.
Pitt dominated the Demon Deacons on the glass as the Panthers enjoyed a 58-35 edge in rebounds. More impressive, they held a 26-9 advantage on the offensive boards.
That translated into a 25-7 edge for the Panthers in second-chance points and that proved to be a key for their survival.
Also, the Demon Deacons didn’t help their cause much as they made only 16 of 32 free-throw attempts.
The win was much needed for the Panthers (18-7, 7-6) as they snapped a three-game losing streak and avoided an awful loss at home at a time they can’t really afford many more losses.
“We are competing, we are playing hard, I wish more of our shots would fall but right now that’s where we are,” Dixon said. “I believe we are going to get better defensively. We’ve done it over the years. It has to come for us.
“But we are getting offensive rebounds and that speaks to how hard we are playing. We know we are not a perfect team right now. We are not giving up, it is just more reflective of how tough our league is, and that’s the challenges we have.”
Meanwhile, on the other bench, the misery continued for coach Danny Manning and the Demon Deacons (10-16, 1-13). This was their 11th loss in a row and also their 23rd consecutive road conference loss, yet another one that happened in heartbreaking fashion. But again, as Manning pointed out, they have only themselves to blame because their missed free throws, turnovers and rebounding deficit proved to be their undoing.
“Losing [stinks],” Manning said. “That’s the bottom line, but Pitt made more plays down the stretch than we did. We didn’t shoot the ball well from the free-throw line and the biggest stat of the game was offensive rebounds.
“Pitt had 26 offensive rebounds and we only had 26 defensive rebounds — those two categories, that was our undoing. Their second-chance points were huge.”
Chris Jones led the Panthers with 23 points, but he had plenty of help as James Robinson had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
After leading by two at halftime, Pitt took control just after the half and pushed its lead to 56-46. But Wake Forest stormed back with a 10-0 run and tied the score with 6:58 left.
The game was tight the rest of the way, but the Demon Deacons took a lead with a 3-pointer by Konstantinos Mitoglou with 34 seconds left in regulation. Robinson tied the score with a deep 3-pointer with 18 seconds left and Crawford missed a 3 at the other end and the game went into overtime tied, 72-72.
The Demon Deacons had a chance to win at the end of the first overtime as they led, 82-81, with nine seconds left and had the ball, but Robinson stole the inbounds pass, was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws to tie the score and force a second overtime.
Wake Forest took an 89-88 lead with 2:19 to play in the second overtime, but Jamel Artis hit a jump shot and then Sheldon Jeter put the Panthers up, 92-89, with 59 seconds to play.
The Panthers then finished the Demon Deacons at the free-throw line.
“We saved the game,” Robinson said when asked if the win saved Pitt’s season. “I don’t know about the season, we just wanted to go 1-0 [Tuesday night] and that’s what we did. It was a tough win for us.”
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise
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